Image from the motion picture Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise

Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise + Black Wax w/ Q&A

Documentary, Music | 1980, 1982 | 139MIN


Robert Mugge


Sun Ra
Gil Scott Heron

Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (1980, 60MIN)

Robert Mugge filmed jazz great Sun Ra on location in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Robert Mugge and crews filmed Sun Ra and his Arkestra from 1978 through 1980 in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., after which, Mugge edited together this acclaimed 60-minute portrait. In April of 2020, New Yorker film critic Richard Brody wrote the following: “The prevalence of documentaries about musicians is a curse, because most of these films do a terrible job of showcasing music. One rare and moving exception is the work of the director Robert Mugge, whose film Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise—about the musician and bandleader whose multimedia and pan-cultural activities made him one of the prime artists of Afrofuturism—is one of the most satisfying musical portraits I’ve ever seen. The film’s revelatory perspectives on Sun Ra’s work arise not only from the filmmaker’s analytical understanding of it, and the discussions that he films with Sun Ra and other members of the band, but also from his approach to filming music itself, in rehearsal and concert. With the movie’s fusion of substance and style, the force of Sun Ra’s passionate vision emerges, powerfully and movingly, along with the thrilling particulars of his music.” In 2008, Time Out London named Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise one of the “50 Greatest Music Films Ever.”

Black Wax (1982, 79MIN)

Robert Mugge’s film Black Wax, a 79-minute portrait of poet-singer-songwriter-musician Gil Scott-Heron, was the first American film to be commissioned by Britain’s Channel 4 Television. It was filmed entirely in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1982, with primary performance sections shot on Scott-Heron’s thirty-third birthday at D.C.’s newly opened Wax Museum Nightclub. According to Janet Maslin in The New York Times, “There are musicians whose work can’t easily be encapsulated by the documentary film format, and there are others, like Gil Scott-Heron, who make a particularly keen impression. Black Wax, which was adroitly directed by Robert Mugge, offers Mr. Scott-Heron a chance to explain his concerns and convictions at length, and he rises to the occasion. The scope of his topical, acerbic songs and poems is well-represented. Mr. Mugge captures his subject with easy comprehensiveness.” According to Ken Tucker in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “It is doubtful that any musician has been better served by a film documentary than Gil Scott-Heron has been in Robert Mugge’s Black Wax.”

Q&A with Robert Mugge and Anthony Decurtis 8/10. Copies of his new memoir Notes From the Road: A Filmmaker’s Journey through American Music will be available for purchase. Mugge and his wife and filmmaking partner, Diana Zelman, will be on hand to sign books.

Portrait of filmmakers Robert Mugge and Diana Zelman

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Q&A with Robert Mugge

Documentarian Robert Mugge joins us at the Roxy Cinema for a post-film discussion and Q&A following a screening of his films Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise and Black Wax

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